Today’s picture shows Albert Pollitt’s drawing of Sankey Marsh in 1887. A Victorian print of the original artwork is held in the Archives here at Warrington.
Even though this image dates to the 1880s it gives us a fascinating idea of how Sankey might have looked before the major changes of the Victorian era took place. It shows an untouched corner of Sankey made up of boggy, low lying marshland and scrub, edged by the river and interwoven by brooks and streams. It shows an untamed environment.
I have to admit that I’m not entirely clear of where ‘Sankey Marsh’ refers to. There is Richmond Marsh, Norton Marsh, and Cuerdley Marsh marked clearly enough on the maps, but not a Sankey Marsh. There was however plenty of marsh around Sankey and plenty of common or ‘waste’ land, any of which could conceivably be referred to by a passing artist as Sankey Marsh.
The only clue I can garner from the picture is a slightly shaky one. In the background, if you look carefully, you can spot what may be a windmill poking out above the clump of trees and bushes. Could this be the windmill at Penketh, so well-known to local historians?
Even if we can never pin down exactly where it depicts, the picture does show a side of Sankey not often recorded in the history books.
Albert Pollitt, 1856 – 1926, was born in Worsley and received his initial artistic training at the Mechanics’ Institute on Princes Street in Manchester. He lived at Lymm from around 1905 – 1910, later moving to America. Pollitt largely produced watercolour landscapes of scenes across Northern England and North Wales, with a spell spent painting scenes in the Trossachs in Scotland.
This picture of Sankey predates his time at Lymm, but perhaps the villages around Warrington were already known to him before he moved here. Our records show that the Museum held an exhibition of Pollitt’s work in 1888, showing between 80 and 90 of his paintings. The exhibition was visited by 5000 people during the month it was on show, so certainly Pollitt would have been well known in Warrington around the time he created this view of Sankey.
Warrington Museum has several of Pollitt’s watercolours here in the collections, including a good set of North-Wales landscapes and a few views of Cumberland and Yorkshire.